Abuja’s encounter with a photographic ‘Rebirth’

For one week, the Thought Pyramid Art Centre, Abuja, showcased works of the photographer Emperor Aigbovbiosa. They were a six-year narrative of no less than seven different projects chronicling the lives of everyday people across Nigeria. 



Fuelled by his desire to tell the story of the everyday people in Nigeria, Emperor Aigbovbiosa, embarked on a mission of capturing their stories through the lenses of his camera. 


For the artist who describes himself a self-thought humanitarian photographer, “These stories happen every day and are still happening as we speak. I wanted to use my photographs to draw the attention of the world to things happening around us.”

Themed around telling a beautiful African story, Aigbobviosa went to riverine communities in Lagos, cultural landscapes like Ahoada in Rivers State, agricultural hubs like Idanre, Ondo State and Kaduna’s historic horse racing, among others. 

Photos from the artist’s 6.45 series

He photographed themes such as ‘Life on a row,’ ‘Traditional Wrestling,’ ‘Man must work,’ ‘6.45,’ ‘Independent series,’ ‘Child Labour’ and ‘Polo.’ There were also independent photographs on display inspired by his personal experiences. 

The different narratives captured in the images spoke to the viewer in familiar ways and in some cases pricked the conscience.

Two relatable pictures, ‘Fashion on water’ and ‘Supermarket’ portrayed the ingenuity of the typical Nigerian woman and her ability to make the most of every situation. The manually paddled canoe was both transport and business platform for the full-bodied women who hawked colourful fabrics to passersby on the waterways.

Traditional wrestling in Ahoada, Rivers State and Dembe traditional wrestlers in Abuja

The story of a six-year-old boy who has become co-bread winner fishing with his father and their ordeal with touts even on days they have no catch immediately resonates with guests who themselves have been victims of Nigeria’s many tax forces with nothing to show for it.

For cultural enthusiasts, the exhibition gave them good reason to appreciate Nigeria’s diversity while educating them on the modus operandi of traditional wrestling practices in Rivers State and Abuja. 

The photograph of a lad disposing of a bucket full of weed for a plate of rice he was to share with two other friends weeding a piece of land about the size of a tennis court, was one that gave guests some food for thought. 

The dexterity of the artist to present the images in a way that further engaged the audience as to whether they were outright photographs or paintings, was also enthralling. 

Aigbovbiosa explained he was able to achieve the effect using a technical style that is achieved from the camera to the final editing of the images on the computer.

He said the different colour tones, from black and white, to outright vibrant colours to a combination of both in particular pieces were deliberate. “They determine the mood I am trying to create with the images and the story I want people to see,” he said. 

Adding that, the exhibition “was captured Rebirth because the country, and its people are going through a phase and this is the best time to start telling our everyday story of the people and culture.”

This is the first solo outing for the artist who has taken part in group exhibitions at home and abroad. “After this I will be having another one in Benin City later in September.”

Beyond admiring the display and appreciating the creativity of the artist, the works were a wakeup call and motivation for many to change the narratives of Nigeria’s everyday people beginning from themselves. 


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